World’s End by Donald James Wheal

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This was a very moving account of growing up in the Blitz in London.

The title refers to the very poor enclave in Chelsea called World’s End: a place of grimy tenements, factories and semi-legal work. But it also refers to the end of Wheal’s childhood world when it was destroyed by bombs in 1944.

The social history that Wheal outlines with his family’s move from rural poor to urban poor is the story of many families with the rise of industrialisation. His father and mother struggle to rise against this poverty and the social restrictions of the class system.

Wheal was evacuated twice during the war. Amazingly, what they believe is the country is not really that far from London. They can still see it burning at night.

The account at the end of the book of the bombing that destroys his world is one the most vivid descriptions I have read. It is so real, so alive, so current!

Maybe the reasons I like to read about life in London during the Blitz and the life of the working class is because it may have been the life of my father who was evacuated as a child from London too. This books fills in some of the descriptions for me that might have been my father’s.

Wheal wrote a sequel which I can’t wait to find time to read, White City.

Wheal died in 2008, aged 77.

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2 thoughts on “World’s End by Donald James Wheal

  1. I have a collection of British autobiographies of the early twentieth century. I think that, like you I want to know how my family might have lived before they moved to Australia. It also makes me incredibly grateful that they did…

    • Spot on, Jo. Unfortunately my father died when I was an early teen (and he and my mother had divorced years earlier) and I am estranged from that side of my family so I don’t know what their life was like. I am grateful they made the move. I am the first person from either side of my family to make it to uni. Neither of my parents finished high school, so Australia, especially courtesy of Gough Whitlam, has given me many opportunities.

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